As Bulls players begin to trickle in to the Berto Center to prepare for what could be a very special season, CSNChicago.com is getting fans ready to hit the ground running, too.
NBA training camps don't open until the end of the month, but from Monday through Friday up until Bulls' media day, we're discussing everything from Derrick Rose's comeback to the top competition in the Eastern Conference—with a twist.
CSNChicago.com has compiled the insights of anonymous behind-the-scenes league insiders (an assistant coach, a front-office executive, a retired player and an advanced scout), to go along with in-depth reporter breakdowns and complementary statistical analysis to ensure that diehard hoops fans are up to speed when the balls officially start bouncing.
Today’s topic: What should be expected from Derrick Rose this season?
“I think he’s going to come back and play with a vengeance. The thing I’m looking forward to seeing is if he plays with the reckless abandon that he did early in his career because I remember his first couple of years in the league, he took some tremendous falls at the basket, as he was driving north and south, and attacking the rim.
Whether he’s going to continue to do that — and I thought at that time, when I watched him, ‘This kid’s going to suffer.’ I saw him land on his back multiple times and take hard falls, and I said, ‘Eventually, this kid’s going to get hurt.’
Now, that’s not the injury that he did suffer, but he has to get over the mental aspect, which is exactly why he sat out the entire season. But you’ll know that Derrick is back when he attacks that rim with a vengeance. I want to see him do that.
The other thing is he improved his jump shot tenfold in his last year, prior to the injury. He’s had a lot of time to get in the gym by himself and I want to see if he still has as much confidence in his jump shot that he did prior to the injury.”
[MORE: How much will Derrick Rose's jumper improve?]
Indeed, I think Rose driving explosively, vertically and when changing direction, will be the strongest indicator of whether or not he’s regained his unique athleticism and more importantly, is playing without fear.
That’s probably the biggest reason I didn’t disagree with his decision not to return last season, especially as the playoffs approached. Just jumping into the swing of things in the middle of the year, as opposing players’ intensity had increased, and trying to feel your way around with a target on your back simply didn’t seem like a good idea, regardless of the Bulls’ injury situation.
But that’s all in the past, or will be, as soon as he starts playing again. I agree with the source’s other point about his jumper, too. One thing that always stuck out to me was how Rose talked about Chauncey Billups’ influence on him from their stint together with USA Basketball in the 2010 FIBA World Championships. Rose is far more explosive than Billups ever was, but they have similar size, frames and scoring ability. If he can continue the progress he was making as an outside shooter and perhaps steal a couple pages out of Billups’ book when it comes to overpowering smaller guards and changing speeds, it could help him be effective as he gains confidence after such a long layoff, as well as benefit him in the long run of his career.
[RELATED: Derrick Rose battles ninjas, dragons on the court]
I’m of the belief that Rose will get back to the same elite, All-Star level that we last saw him at, even if he changes some aspects of his game. That would be a natural development anyway, but the injury, rehabilitation process and so much time in the gym may have sped up the process. But unlike when he last played for the Bulls, Jimmy Butler has given the team another offensive weapon (working out in California together this summer is a good sign, as it should help the new starting backcourt build chemistry), Joakim Noah showed he can shoulder even more responsibility as a facilitator and in general, seeing the success the team enjoyed without him should make Rose even more confident in his teammates.
I hate to predict specific numbers, but assuming that his minutes will be watched closely, there’s more offensive balance and he starts slowly before finding his rhythm, I’d pencil Rose in for around 21 points and seven assists a game, not too far off his averages in the 2011-12 season, though given his fierce pride and the way his reputation was attacked by media and fans alike last season, it wouldn’t surprise me if he played at an even higher level.
Don’t hold me to that, just like you shouldn’t overanalyze comments made by head coach Tom Thibodeau, Bulls general manager Gar Forman or anybody else. Just sit back and watch one of the most anticipated comebacks in recent memory.
Tomorrow: Just how good are the Bulls?